Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Common Gull - Larus canus
LARIDAE Members:
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General Comments In summer 2021, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) split the former Mew Gull (Larus canus) into two species -- the European-breeding Common Gull (L. canus) and the western North American-breeding Short-billed Gull (L. brachyrhynchus). This complicates records committees decisions in the eastern United States, including here in North Carolina. Common Gull is a slightly larger bird than is the Mew Gull (new sense) that breeds in Alaska and western Canada. Of the five reports of "Mew Gull" (broad sense) for North Carolina, all from the coast in winter, four are considered to be of the Old World species -- Common Gull -- and one of the North American species -- Short-billed Gull. Common Gull is very similar to the Ring-billed Gull (and is that gull's "replacement" in Eurasia), and it usually occurs in flocks of that species when found in the Eastern states. However, observers must be exceedingly cautious about identification, especially of immature birds. In North Carolina, Common Gulls feeds with Ring-billeds along the coast, probably mostly over the inshore ocean and at other tidal water, but birds are typically picked out only at rest, when they can be carefully compared with adjacent Ring-billeds. For distinctions between this species and Short-billed Gull, see that species account.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Casual along the coast in winter. Five records: one adult seen at Cape Hatteras Point, on 31 Dec 1980* [Chat 45:75-77 link]; one first-winter individual of Short-billed Gull, seen on Ocracoke Island at Hatteras Inlet, on 27 Dec 1983* [Chat 48:94-95 link]; one adult at Cape Hatteras Point on 19 Feb 1993* [Chat 59:24-25 link]; one first-winter bird seen at Cape Hatteras Point on 27 Dec 1995* [Chat 60:162 link]; and one adult at Cape Hatteras Point on 24 Jan 2009* [Chat 73:63 link]. Two photographs of this last (2009) bird are on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The species may be more frequent in NC than the four records indicate. Adult Common Gulls are typically picked out from Ring-billeds by their somewhat darker mantle, the slightly smaller size, the smaller bill (which may or may not have some red or black near the tip), and dark eye. Identification of immatures must be done with great caution, with thorough details provided.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-14], LeGrand[2021-07-12], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.